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9 Feb 2022

Jeremy Nuttall, Toronto Star

‘Modern slavery’ draws more attention as new bill increases pressure on Ottawa to act

Pressure is mounting on Parliament Hill for the government to take action on international slave labour even as another bill meant to bring scrutiny to Canadian firms doing business abroad was introduced in the House of Commons ... .

... [The] bill ... comes a day after virtually the same bill, introduced in the Senate in 2020 by Sen. Julie Miville-Dechêne, began being studied at committee in Ottawa. McKay was behind the initial drafts of both bills.

... On Feb. 4 [2022], a collection of current and former parliamentarians wrote a letter to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland, raising concerns about Canadian pension funds investing in China-based firms complicit in human rights abuses in Xinjiang. The letter asks Ottawa to pass a “Modern Slavery Act” that includes regulations about pension fund investments.

... CDPQ media relations adviser Kate Monfette said the investor respects any sanctions Canada may place and follows a “broad and rigorous” process to meet its investment criteria. Monfette wouldn’t speak to the letter directly, however: “We do not comment on political matters.”

BCI, meanwhile, says it takes social considerations into account when investing, but did not respond to a request for comment.

... Last year, the Star published a report detailing investments of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board into companies building equipment for the Chinese military. The fund had invested in firms the U.S. had barred American companies from investing in, due to their ties to China’s military and surveillance apparatus. At the time, the Canada Pension Plan told the Star its investments were “dynamic and fast changing.”